Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Two Extremely Obvious Observations on the Book of Job

Recently I've been reading through the book of Job and have noticed again two glaringly obvious things about the book as a whole. As obvious as these things are I think that they are part of the way that the book of Job ministers to the suffering believer. So, here they are, two obvious observations on the book of Job:

1) Job is a Big Book
Suffering is not an issue that we can give short and quick answers to as we seek to care for sufferers, or grapple with suffering for ourselves. It takes time to do this. This is perhaps why Job is such a long book. One of the ways it ministers to the suffering believer is by helping them to take time in wrestling with their suffering and the questions it raises. It helps the reader to take the time to grapple with these issues and not to settle with short and quick answers.

2) Job is a Poetic Book
That is, most of the book is made up of poetry. There are very few narrative sections (See Job 1-2; 42), and even these have poetic lines in them. Poetry has an effect that prose never can. It allows us to express things that plain lines of prose would not be able to. It can minister to us in ways that prose cannot. Have you ever noticed how, for many believers, what has sustained them through the waves of suffering has been a Psalm, or a hymn that expresses biblical truth? Poetry has a way of engaging with the soul and ministering to it in ways that plain words cannot (it is interesting to note what a large proportion of the Bible contains poetry and poetic images). Therefore, another way Job ministers to the suffering believer is through the fact that it is a poetic book, it expresses the pain of Job in ways that prose cannot express, but that the suffering believer can identify with. It ministers to the soul with poetic images and devices that express things, and impress things on the heart that cannot be conveyed by other genres. For example, the poetic imagery in chapters 38-41 says "God knows everything and is in control of everything", in ways that are much more vivid than this and in ways that impress these truths on the heart in a way that simple prose cannot.